My husband frequently says, “Championships are won in the off season.” I think he uses this analogy when he is trying to motivate me to clean house or not eat a second piece of pie or something along those lines, and it never really works for me. However, the longer I’ve thought on this quote, the more I like it and the meaning behind it and believe it relates to academics just as easily as to athletics. If the “season” for the student is the school year and the “playing field” is the classroom, then summer becomes the off season.
Hello, off season! Students (and teachers) love your lazy days, resting of the brain, and lack of stress associated with “getting the grade.” However, if a student is to be successful, what happens in the summer can be just as important as what happens during the school year. Students do need a break, but just as a serious athlete would never become a couch potato eating chips and drinking Coke all day (the main reason why I’m not a serious athlete), a student who is serious about doing well in school should not completely take a break during his or her off season.
So what’s a student to do? Summer reading. Stop groaning. I can hear you, and it’s annoying to hear groaning during my off season. Hear me out. I’m not suggesting your student read War and Peace during the off season. Read for fun. What you read matters less than the fact that you are reading something.
I have two non-reading kids, so I know the struggle of this. My son was a non-reader when he was young, but he loved sports. During his teen years, we subscribed to ESPN the Magazine and Chop Talk just so he was reading something during the summer. He also loved baseball and would study baseball cards helping him with his math skills. While I would have loved for him to be reading The Count of Monte Cristo during the summer, it wasn’t going to happen, and the fact that he was reading and having a positive experience with reading was huge. (Funny story about my son and reading – When he was in middle school and needing Accelerated Reading points, he would take tests on biographies of athletes without reading the book and make 100s. Okay – not really funny, I know, but his ESPN reading did pay off).
If you have younger kids, take them to the library (the big building with books which you can borrow for free) and let them choose their books. Kids love to wander around and choose their own books. Most libraries have summer reading contests and incentives which younger kids love. The younger the child, the more of a chance that reading will become a part of who he or she is. You cannot start reading too early!
More ideas –
Read stories about places where you will be traveling.
Read a book then act out scenes, make a movie based on the book, or turn it into a play.
Read a book as a family.
Choose a book to read with neighborhood friends.
Choose a theme and base summer reading around the theme.
Have a weekly television and electronics free night set aside for reading.
Every year as students as applying to college, parents (plural not singular) frantically ask me how to increase the reading comprehension section of the SAT. My answer is always the same: two or three test taking hints will never replace a lifetime of good reading habits. Championships are won in the off season.
What is one specific thing you can do to encourage your child to read this summer?